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Friday 19 February 2016

The Observer's "Fans verdict on title contenders" - better late than never?

My answers to the questions posed by the Observer for their feature, in case there's anyone who still wants to read them:

1) What is your prediction for the game? (Please give us your tip for an exact score, plus a quick explanation)


Arriving at the Emirates on the back of their humbling of the former title favourites, I fancy that the Foxes will prove an entirely different proposition to the team that we turned over 2-5 at the King Power back in September.

As ever, the outcome will be dependent upon which incarnation of the Gunners turns up. We badly need the likes of Alexis and Giroud to rediscover their mojo, so that in tandem with the magical promptings of Mesut Özil, we might have sufficient firepower to trouble Schmeichel. The big question is whether we can match the visitor’s zest and intensity in the middle of the park, in order to prevent the likes of Kanté and Drinkwater running amok. Ultimately it might prove a tale of the two keepers and whether Petr Cech can outshine our guest’s goal minder.

2) Will you win the title? If so, why? If not, why not?

Obviously my heart says yes, but there’s about as much conviction from my head as has been evident in our far too tepid form of late. Fitness permitting, the Gunners undoubtedly have the talented tools to go all the way, but sadly we’ve yet to witness proof of them having the necessary appetite.

The taxing nature of a title race puts the emphasis on the whole being greater than the sum of the individual parts. With Ramsey inheriting the injured Cazorla’s much coveted central role and the Ox finally liberated from the shackles of his sideline yoke, their seemingly blasé body language leaves us increasingly frustrated that the same level of intense desire on the terraces is not made manifest on the pitch. 

To date that ‘I want a winner’s medal and nothing is going to stop me’ type total commitment has been demonstrated almost exclusively by Alexis, while the majority of his team mates appear to expect it to be handed to them, gift-wrapped (leaving some of out star names open to accusations of merely going through the motions, keeping their powder dry for the Euros this summer). If the Gunners are to scale the summit and remain there, we have to hope our Chilean Duracell Bunny is infectious and that they all catch this same vibe…sharpish!

3) If you don't win the title, who will?

As long as it’s anyone but Spurs! Although it would be most amusing to see the Tinkerman making a complete mockery of the traditional hierarchy.

4) What are the three other games in the remaining fixture list that most worry you?

One always looks forward to a date with our neighbours at the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road, with similar amount of enthusiasm that one has for a trip to the dentist! The outing to Goodison is a potential banana skin, immediately upon our return from conquering Messi & his Catalan cohorts. Then there’s the minor matter of winning the title at the Etihad on the penultimate weekend.

5) What's been the best moment of the season so far?

Blowing Man Utd away in the opening 20 mins has been somewhat belittled by their mediocrity since. Not sure whether Flamini silencing White Hart Lane with his stunning brace in the League Cup trumps Giroud bearing his hat-trick of gifts for the Greeks and thereby resuscitating our European adventure?

6) Who has been the key player and what do they bring?

The privilege of watching Mesut Özil is, as they say, worth the price of admission alone, but Petr Cech has proved key, since he’s earned the points that would’ve previously been squandered, with him possessing that special aura, which lends composure to our defence and causes opposition strikers to fluff their lines.

7) Who is your most underrated hero?

Never thought I’d be glad to see Gibbs on the bench, but Nacho Monreal has been the epitome of consistency so far this season.

8) And finally, please list your side's best XI....

With Jack Wilshere the forgotten man, our best XI pretty much picks itself. The only real debate is Gabriel or the BFG, yet despite his increasing resemblance to an oil tanker, Per seems sufficiently composed, when afforded Franny’s protection:

Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Ramsey, Coquelin, Cazorla, Alexis, Özil, Giroud.

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